Israel’s release of a report [full text here] asserting that 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was not killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2000, and may not even have been injured by Israelis, has had the opposite effect to that which the government intended: The report is being widely mocked, and several commentators have turned attention to the staggering numbers of Palestinians children killed by Israel inside the occupation.
And as we indicated yesterday, The New York Times seems to have been hurt by its credulous coverage of the report. In fact, Robert Mackey at the Times today offers a far more balanced account of the report than the original story.
Some other voices. First, from a Haaretz editorial:
According to the human rights group B’Tselem, 951 children and teens were killed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza between 2000 and 2008, yet no government committee was ever established to investigate the circumstances of their deaths. Only in the al-Dura case was such a committee convened. . . .
This report doesn’t lift the fog off this case, if there ever was any. Instead, it raises a more painful issue: the many young people killed by IDF soldiers during the second intifada.
If the government had chosen to investigate that, perhaps it would have been reasonable to include a chapter on the al-Dura incident. But focusing only on him is mere propaganda that won’t in any way improve Israel’s problematic image of being responsible for too many children’s deaths.
Very similar points are made in the post, “Still Desecrating the Memory of Mohammed Al-Dura,” by the editors at the Arabist:
This NYT report by Isabel Kershner is titled “Israeli Report Casts New Doubts on Shooting in Gaza”, but if it were another country one suspects it might be titled “Government report spins boy’s death as trial verdict looms”. The Israeli government has made hasbara about the al-Dura shooting one of its signature image campaign, regularly seeding doubt about the version recorded and witnessed by France 2 cameramen which became an iconic image of the occupation of Palestine…
This is not an investigation, this is a government propaganda operation timed ahead of a court verdict that may further damage Israel’s image and an ongoing attempt at damage control by attempting to muddy the waters of a case that is iconic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine precisely because children are so often its victims.
On our site, Donald Johnson also commented that the case is meaningless except as a possible propaganda tool to obscure the truth.
Suppose for the sake of argument that this boy was killed by Palestinian bullets–we already know there were hundreds of Palestinian children killed by the Israelis during the Second Intifada. There’s no doubt about this. For the Israeli government, the significance of this particular case is that it was caught on camera, so they think that if they can refute this story it is a huge propaganda victory. Maybe so, from the purely amoral perspective that propagandist hacks adopt, but it doesn’t change the overall record and so there’s no reason for the NYT to frame the story this way, unless they want to serve a propagandist role themselves.
Finally, Robert Mackey at the lede blog at the Times offers a far more balanced coverage of the report than Isabel Kershner did on first impression yesterday. Mackey:
the new report, which was posted online by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, also endorsed a theory popular with pro-Israel bloggers — that the whole event might have been staged by Palestinian militants and the local cameraman who recorded the incident in order to damage Israel’s standing and create a child martyr to advance their cause.
Note that Mackey identifies the bloggers as “pro-Israel bloggers,” thereby walking back the earlier NYT account, which presented this site, the Al Durah Project, as a credible critics. The Arabist explains what a fraud that claim is:
“this site… linked to by the NYT without identifying its ideological, propagandistic character — e.g. ‘Europeans, who repeatedly ran this footage, unwittingly waved the flag Jihad (sic) in front of their Muslim populations.’
Mackey includes this helpful info:
As the Canadian-Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman reported in 2010, Mr. Enderlin discussed the criticism of his report at length that year in an English-language interview with France 24, following the publication of his book “A Child Is Dead.”